This is an Unusual Book. It is a compilation of the research material that Bremner, Bird and Fortune used as the basis of their satirical TV program. The material is laid out in such a fashion as to form a narrative history of the antics of New Labour from their entry into Government in 1997 up to 2005. As such, the book makes for some alarming reading! ‘You are here’ exposes the hypocrisy and lies that have become an accepted part of New Labours character in all their festering glory. This is the story of a warmongering megalomaniac and a nation of passive, easily manipulated cattle. As I said, not easy reading by any means.
This book is the result of numerous off record conversations as well as the simple process of recording the promises of New Labour and then exposing the reality of those promises. The book exemplifies the notion that we are a nation of people with very short memories who are very easily distracted. Starting with New Labours landslide victory in 1997, ‘You are Here’ reminds us of the tremendous sense of optimism that gripped the country. ‘Things can only get better’ was not only the soundtrack to the celebrations on the night, but practically a mission statement from the party who were going to save us all from the depredations of the Conservatives. However, this was not simple politics as the past had seen them play out. New Labour created a vast media machine, commanded by the ubiquitous Alastair Campbell, to transmit their message to everyone and anyone. Blair surrounded himself with musicians and actors and the banner of ‘Cool Britannia’ was unfurled. As we watched Liam and Noel Gallagher swagger into number 10 we thought to ourselves, hmm, that’s a little different.
Unfortunately, different is not the same as better as the rest of the book goes on to reveal.
The remainder of ‘You are Here’ is divided into four main topics. Broadly, these deal with the build up to and aftermath of Gulf War II – ‘This time it’s personal’; the unique approach that New Labour took to running our country; our foreign policy during the period covered by the book and of course the costs, financial and in terms of civil liberties, that we have paid under New Labours enlightened rule. The book is rounded of by list of ‘little changes’ New Labour has made to the UK and a ten part suggested solution for global peace and harmony. No. Seriously. 😉
The next section I shall summarise revolves around the incredible piece of international breakdown that was the Iraq war, post September the 11th. As a nation many (some?) of us were swept along in the tidal wave of propaganda that preceeded the war and sloshed about all the way through. We knew our government was lying to us, simply because they kept contradicting themselves. Thing is, to be a good liar, you need a good memory as well. It would seem that all that time spent at our top universities not inhaling, had damaged the memories of our ruling caste. But all of this is by the by. There was going to be a war in Iraq, it was always going to be simply a case of finding a justification. This subject has been covered in depth by an array of media outlets. The result of this influx of information and rumour has been a level of obfuscation that New Labour could only have dreamt of. ‘You are Here’ takes you by the hand and walks you through the menagerie of half truths and fictions in far more detail than I could convey here, consider this, however. Those of you who were paying attention will recall a minor organisation called the UN. You may also remember our Glorious Leader assuring us that we would only invade another sovreign nation under the auspices of a UN charter. Wouldn’t be legal otherwise, you see. You will also remember that the UN said ‘no invasion, Iraq are no threat’. Still smiling that shit eating grin, Mr Blair proposed another resolution and as it began to fail, alluded to the notion that a resolution wasn’t really necessary – we would go ahead anyway, if the Americans indicated that was their preference. There was mutterings about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), we knew Iraq had them. After all, we sold them to Iraq in the first place and lent him the money to pay for them. Unfortunately, the inconsiderate Iraqis had deactivated the vast majority of them. In accordance with UN directives. The Coalition of the Willing, (USA, UK, Australia and if you choose to count them, like Mr Powell, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.) collectively shrugged their shoulders and invaded Iraq anyway. Not withstanding the fact that the place is dripping in oil, as George W. Bush put it ‘He tried to kill my daddy…’ *shudder*
The following part of the book goes into detail about New Labours domestic policies and the results of said policies. As an interesting side note, Routledges Economic Dictionary defined New Labours financial policy thus: “Blairism – see Thatcherism”. New Labour began to create a ‘new’ way for the UK to conduct its business. They resolved, under the Iron Chancellor (Comrade Brown, Supreme Leader in Waiting) that finance would be the major industry of the UK. The City of London was given unprecedented freedoms to express their psychopathic urge to make money at all costs. What little manufacturing industry that existed was slowly crushed. Then came the rise of the Private Finance Initiative (PFI). This was not a New Labour Idea, the concept had arisen under the Conservative regime that had proceeded the rise of Blair and his cohorts. However, under New Labour the PFIs positively ballooned. The reason for this is disturbingly straightforward. It’s all to do with accounting. The PFIs are not recorded on the Governments economic balance sheet. So, if for example you have a service haemoraging money, for example the rail network, that loss is not visible to a cursory examination of the government accounts. It is this trickery which allowed New Labour to convince people they were handling our nations finances with skill and care. There is much use of smoke and mirrors when dealing with New Labour.
Unfortunately, I’m running short of space here. This is the only criticism I have of this book, it’s a nightmare to review because it covers so much material (354 pages, including index and references). Some of the other topics covered include, but are not limited to, our involvement in Africa generally; Libya specifically; most of the countries whose name ends in ‘stan’. It also covers subject material such as our impact on the enviroment, the changes to our school, health and benefits systems. And a big list of the various civil liberties that have been quietly removed since 1997. Seriously, there is loads of good stuff here! To wrap up then, some statistics from the section called ‘The Little Book of Britain’ (correct in 2005, things may have deteriorated since then..)
‘Over a third of the population earns less than £6 an hour’
‘Almost half the children in London live in poverty’
‘7 million adults are not literate enough to cope with modern life’
‘Over £6 billion is spent on alcohol every year’
‘Over 20% of the population is obese’
‘In 2002 on average one school playing field was sold off each week’
The importance of this book is that it shows the true face of our government. I urge you to read it.